WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the White House on Tuesday and hailed the US-backed Iraqi forces's progress against the Islamic State group.
|Abadi wants to secure ‘marked increase’ in US-led air campaign
Obama said the allies were "making serious progress" in pushing back the jihadists and thanked Abadi for living up to his commitment to make Iraq's government more inclusive.
"Success won't occur overnight" Obama said, "but what is clear is that we will be successful."
Embarking on his inaugural prime ministerial trip to Washington, Abadi had said his top priority would be to secure a "marked increase" in the US-led air campaign and in the "delivery of arms."
Obama did not give that commitment in public, but said the meeting had dealt extensively with coordinating the next steps and possible US help.
Obama also announced an additional $200 million in aid for those displaced or harmed by Islamic State's activities.
Swaths of Iraq, including the second city Mosul and the vast western province of Anbar, are still occupied by militants bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate.
Abadi renewed a pledged to "liberate" those areas.
But his armed forces, ravaged by years of war, desertion and underfunding, have struggled to get on the front foot.
To defend Baghdad and other key points the government has leaned heavily on US-led airstrikes and Shiite militia, which Washington says are controlled by Iran.
Obama called for those fighters to fall under government control, urging all actors to "respect Iraq's sovereignty."
Abadi said he welcomed help in fighting the Islamic State, but would "reject any transgression of Iraqi sovereignty."
The presence of Shiite militia in Sunni-dominated towns and villages has also raised the specter of further ethnic violence that has long plagued Iraq.
Abadi promised his government would have "zero tolerance" of rights abuses, and anyone involved in atrocities against civilians would be brought to book.